Fashion For Shorter Men Guide by burial_archangel
I’m a long-time lurker and feel it’s about time I contributed something to the community. I still consider myself a beginner at this, maybe slowly moving into intermediate, so I feel that this is the only subject I feel I have enough knowledge of to post about. That said, I may well be wrong/misguided about some things in here, so please feel free to comment.
For reference I’m 5’7 and around 145lbs. I’d say this guide is intended for anyone under 5’9, which is around average height in most countries.
I’m sorry to say for anyone who’s new to this, but being short is a massive pain in the arse in mens fashion. We’re a sector of the market that is oddly not provided for – many shops will have a tall section, and in female fashion there are often petite sections. No such thing for men.
By far the most important thing is to find yourself a good tailor. The fact is that most of the clothes you buy are going to have to be tailored. Really you want to be including potential tailoring costs when you’re considering buying a garment – for example I always add £10 when I’m buying a button up shirt because I know it’ll need to be hemmed, at the very least. Many places have price lists which you can use to factor the costs in.
Whenever you’re putting together an outfit, always remember one word – ‘streamline’. This is what we’re looking to do. We want people’s eyes to be able to traverse our body easily – this means sticking with a low contrast palette, and avoiding things that effectively cut our torso in two (no large belts, horizontal stripes or colour blocking).
There are two approaches you can use with colour – either you can use members of the same colour family or just useall-light colours or all-dark colours. I tend to just go all-light or all-dark. In practice for me, this means I effectively have two sides to my wardrobes:
- Lights, which make up around 1/3 of my wardrobe, and are largely used in summer. Beige, light olive, white, light grey, creams/off-whites, sky blue and other pastels.
- Darks, which make up around 2/3, and are largely used in the colder months and summer evenings. Black, navy blue, sapphire, charcoal, pewter, dark olive, dark brown, burgundy, berry and others.
Here are some other things to bear in mind:
- When buying an item, it’s best to go to one extreme or the other in terms of colour. For example, with brown brogues, I’ll tend to go with a very light tan, or a very dark, chocolate brown, rather than a medium brown. With grey sneakers, either light, icy grey or deep charcoal, rather than a medium grey. That way it’ll work effectively with one side of my wardrobe and minimise contrast within an outfit.
- If you do want to use a contrasting colour, the best way to do this is to work it inwards and up top, in the form of a tee or a button up, layered under an outer layer which matches your bottom half, such as a cardigan or bomber jacket (or a tee under a button up, which is a good way to do this in summer). Scarves are also great for this.
- Inevitably you’re going to end up with the more interesting parts of your outfit up top – we don’t want to draw attention to our bottom half. No patterned socks, brightly coloured chinos or loud sneakers.
- Avoid horizontal stripes and colour blocking.
- If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend getting a personal colour draping done. They will figure out your ‘season’ based in your skin tone, and give you a swatchbook of colours you can wear. Combined with the principles here this will give you an effective, concise colour palette for your wardrobe, and will save you a lot of money in the long run.
I feel the rule of thirds is very important here. As a general rule, you want to aim for the top half of your outfit being around 1/3 of your torso, and the bottom half around 2/3, or as close to this as possible. Fit pics are a good way to judge if everything is in proportion.
Fit should be on the slimmer side. This is very important for short guys as we don’t want unnecessary bulk disrupting our silhouette.
It’s important that shoes don’t contrast too heavily with our trousers – keeping a low contrast will visually elongate our legs. Stuff like white sneakers with black denim is a no go, whereas black or charcoal sneakers with black denim works brilliantly.
As mentioned above, go to the light or dark ends of the spectrum with shoes. I’m not as averse to black as many on MFA, so I tend to go with black nowadays for my darker shoes, but charcoal, chocolate brown and burgundy are all solid choices. For lighter colours, I go with tans, off-whites, whites and light greys.
You can go for shoes with a fairly thick sole to give a bit of lift. Boots are great for this. But keep it subtle – no cuban heels or risers.
When wearing shorts I wear shoes that match my skin tone as closely as possible, which for me is creamy off-white, or a light tan. Cream coloured espadrilles particularly work great. I figure this has the same elongating effect when combined with beige shorts that hit a few inches above the knee.
Your trousers should generally be the darker colour within your outfit. For raw denim, I recommend deep indigo versions, such as Rogue Territory Dark Stantons, rather than the usual white weft denim. Contrary to popular opinion, I find that black denim is actually very versatile, and works really well with a navy top, as long as it’s a lighter navy.Lighter blue denim is great for summer when paired with a light grey or white tee, just keep to the very light blue versions for low contrast. Navy and beige chinos are essential. Charcoal flannel trousers are awesome for winter.
Trousers should never be low-rise – stick to medium to high-rise versions. Drop crotch is also a bad idea.
It’s very important that you have little or no break on trousers. Stacking, cuffing and rolling will all visually shorten. This is a very simple alteration at the tailors and is always worth doing. Don’t go Thom Browne, and don’t tuck trousers into boots.
(Actually, I do think rolling can work, provided the underside doesn’t contrast with the colour of the trousers like it does on most indigo denim. But still, hemming is preferable).
As mentioned above, I only use beige for shorts. I figure that when wearing them, my skin tone effectively becomes part of the colour palette of the outfit, and I need to keep a low contrast when compared to it in order to streamline effectively. This means:
- Off-White, light grey or very light pastel shirt
- Beige shorts
- Off-white or light tan shoes
This will obviously be different if you’re not a pasty white guy. Adjust accordingly for your own skin tone.
Shorts for us should always be on the shorter side, hitting a few inches above the knee.
I love button-ups, but they present a problem for the short man as they’re pretty much always too long to wear untucked off the rack. This is where your tailor comes in, and along with getting trousers hemmed, hemming a shirt is one of the most common alterations you’ll need to make. For reference, whenever I’ve had it done it’s usually cost £10 (around $15). Factor this in to the cost of buying the shirt.
Your shirt should ideally hit no lower than halfway down your zipper. From there you can figure out your ideal centre back length, which you can use to compare against sizing charts when buying shirts online.
Be aware of button placement. If the shirt is too long off the rack, you need some breathing space between the bottom button and the hem of the shirt to give you enough room to shorten it without ending up with a weird button placement. I know some people don’t care about this, but I always think it looks weird. You’ll see some shirts that have little space from the bottom button to the hem – I’d recommend avoiding these if they’re too long OTR, as you won’t have enough room to shorten them.
Pocket placement is also something to bear in mind – you don’t want the pocket to be too low down on the body of the shirt once it’s been hemmed, as that also tends to look weird. I try to make sure pockets are fairly small and high up on the shirt, not too close to midway.
Obviously, you can avoid all this by just tucking in your shirts, but I tend to find this harder to do in casual fits.
You can wear patterns and checks, but keep them small. Micro-gingham and micro-floral both work really well. Vertical stripes are famously effective for shorter men, but I personally struggle to wear these cohesively outside of bizcas fits.
As with button ups, they should hit no higher than mid-zipper, and should hit mid-bicep at the lowest. Keep them fitted. Tees are going to be the cheapest and easiest way to experiment colour-wise, so go nuts.
Shawl collar cardigans are great because they allow you to streamline and layer over a contrasting colour, as mentioned above. I highly recommend picking up both a heavyweight navy or charcoal and lighter-weight light grey or beige version.
Sweaters can also be used, just make sure they don’t contrast too heavily with your bottom half.
Vertical patterns such as herringbone and cable-knits can provide an elongating effect.
Coats and Jackets
The shorter the better here. If it looks short on the model it’ll probably be perfect on you. Denim jackets, harringtons, field jackets, bomber jackets, leather jackets, and so on. Make sure it hits halfway down your zipper or higher, and isn’t too bulky.
I tend to avoid jackets with too many pockets, or epaulets. Double-breasted jackets are also a no-go.
I can’t provide much info about suits because I only own one and don’t have to wear them to work. I will say that it was very difficult to find one that fit properly – even the short size jackets tended to be too long. Unlike most people, you don’t want your suit jacket to cover your rear completely. Stick to single breasted, with two buttons at the most, but ideally one. And keep your lapels thin.
To be honest, I’m seriously considering going MTM or bespoke for my next suit, as finding one off the rack just seemed to be more hassle than it was worth. YMMV.
Keep socks the same colour or as close as possible to your trousers. Don’t go sockless unless you’re wearing a colour that closely matches your skin tone. No patterns or loud colours.
Hats and scarves are a great way to add colour and draw attention upwards to your face. They’re a probably the best way to add visual interest to your outfit in winter. If you have blue eyes then a bright, sapphire blue scarf is a great way to draw attention to them.
Keep watches minimal and with a small face. I find 38mm is the maximum diameter for me before it looks too big on my wrist. Braun are putting out some some beautiful, affordable minimalist watches at the moment, with a Dieter Rams inspired design. That said, I’m not too knowledgable about watches, so there may well be better options at that price, I just really love the design.
Belts should be no thicker than 1.5 inches and shouldn’t contrast too heavily with your outfit. Going beltless is preferable if possible.
There’s a blog called The Modest Man which I recommend as it has some good info, and examples of people who are short. The ebook on there is also worth buying as it’s a pretty comprehensive guide to fit for short guys.
Fashionbeans also have some articles about fit for short men:
There’s also quite a lot of info on women’s fashion blogs if you do a google search – most of it is applicable to men too.
If you have any other resources please feel free to post them in the comments, and I’ll add them in here.
Also, if you know of any shorter guys on Instagram/Dressed.so/Tumblr whatever, or you are one yourself, please post them in the comments, I’d love to see how other people are approaching it.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to correct me if I’m talking out of my arse at any point here. There isn’t a huge amount of information out there about this, so the above is the result of many hours of googling and reading online, and some theorising on my part. I’m still learning and will amend where needed.Other Educational Articles
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